Standing waist-deep in the cold Deschutes River, watching my can of Rainier bob gently downstream while I tried to figure out what had happened to my sandal in the whopping one minute since I’d set foot in the river, I realized that I was in store for a slightly different drinking experience than I’m used to. Of course, I might not have had so much trouble getting onto my float had I not grabbed a can of beer in each hand—but what can I say? I was enthusiastic.
There’s quite a bit to be said for taking a break from routine to do something new and different, and that’s as true for work as for drinking. My typical sunny Seattle Sunday might have involved a patio and some white wine, but this one was going to be different. I don’t do a lot of drinking with my shirt off (Seattle bars are so closed-minded), but once in a while it feels like just about the best thing on earth.
When my friend Emily invited me to come on the float, I pictured a lazy afternoon, a cooler full of beer, and sunburn. I got all those things, but quite a bit more too. From a bear sighting to a float that refused to live up to its name, it was quite the adventure, but also a chance to enjoy a drinking experience I so rarely indulge in. Regular readers know that I mostly write about fine wines and cocktails in fancy restaurants in bars. Yet few joys are better than drinking cheap lager in the great outdoors, surrounded by friends, letting the current take you where it will.
I should probably level with you. For the first half of the float, I barely did. Float, that is. Because I didn’t plan ahead and buy an inner tube, I got stuck using a small inflatable raft that would have been perfect in a pool, but was essentially an invitation to flip over, careen into rocks and branches, and drag along the bottom in the shallow parts. Actually, the worst part was that it made it relatively difficult to drink beer while remaining afloat. I managed somehow, but remember that I’m a highly trained professional.
I emerged from the river dripping, short a sandal, a pair of sunglasses, and quite possibly some dignity, but long on new life experiences, and with renewed appreciation for the joys of what some might deem simple drinking. Following that with shots of whiskey and more cheap beer at a bar afterward only reinforced the joy; I think I said “I’m having an awesome time” at least a dozen times. That said, we did finish the night drinking two bottles of wine that I’d brought. A tiger can’t change his stripes, though I did end up with a rather striped sunburn.